Ahead of EminiFX CEO Eddy Alexandre’s sentencing hearing Tuesday, federal prosecutors have asked the judge to impose 120 months in prison time.
This reporting is sponsored by a grant from The McGraw Center for Business Journalism at the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at the City University of New York.
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NEW YORK — Ahead of a highly anticipated sentencing hearing Tuesday in the EminiFX criminal trial of CEO Eddy Alexandre, federal prosecutors filed their recommendation for the judge to impose on the commodities conviction: 10 years in prison. Alexandre, meanwhile, asked for leniency – saying in his four-page letter seeking leniency that EminiFX’s “explosive growth” happened too quickly to keep pace so he could deliver on the financial wealth promises he had made to investors.
Both sides’ assertions reflect a deluge of statements sent to District Judge John P. Cronan, with some letter writers advocating for and others insisting against imprisonment for Alexandre when sentencing hearing takes place on July 18.
“Alexandre exploited his position as a trusted member of his church and the Haitian community by defrauding the very same people who trusted and supported him the most,” prosecutors said in the July 12 sentencing letter to Cronan.
“Alexandre’s victims were far from wealthy. Each worked hard for the money they invested with Alexandre,” they said. “And Alexandre worked hard at convincing his victims to turn over this money, preying on the members of his community who placed their trust in him, by luring them to invest with false promises of financial freedom and outsized investment returns.”
Alexandre, during an exclusive interview with The Haitian Times outside Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist in Queensu on July 8, had said he would share his story after the July 18 sentencing. Asked whether he wouldn’t be in custody afterward, he replied “no.”
“No, I will not be in custody,” Alexandre said, then walked away.
EminiFX recap and court cases
Alexandre was arrested in May 2022 and accused of running a Ponzi-like scheme through his cryptocurrency and foreign exchange investment club that attracted investors who believed in the robot-assisted crypto- and forex-trading software he had marketed as his trade secret. He promised weekly returns of 5% to 9.99% and millionaire status within two to three years, depending on investors’ initial investment and provided they did not withdraw funds.
In reality, the government said, Alexandre operated a multi-level marketing scheme to defraud EminiFX club members of nearly $250 million. Instead of investing the funds, he used investors’ money to pay out as “withdrawals” to others and showed unsuspecting members fictitious weekly returns through his app.
Between September 2021 and his arrest, Alexandre lost $50 million of investor funds, the latest court filings say. He failed to invest most of the funds, which were spread out in traditional banks and tied up in digital currencies such as BitCoin. Prosecutors say unbeknownst to investors beforehand, Alexandre also brought a $4.8 million home, 46 foreclosure properties in Long Island and six luxury vehicles, leased a seventh car, paid rent and furnished EminiFX office space in midtown Manhattan, hosted events and used more than $100,000 on legal fees.
In February 2023, Alexandre pled guilty to commodities fraud, saying the “trade secret” that would have delivered high returns had failed. Two counts in the criminal case – price manipulation concerning communication facilities and fraud by wire, radio or television – are still pending.
Meanwhile, the Commodity Futures Trading Commision, the regulatory body that oversees trading, is pursuing civil cases against Alexandre and EminiFX to recover the funds amassed. Since April, a class action suit has also been filed against 108 defendants, including the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference, its regional organizations and individual churches and pastors.
Last week’s sentencing court filings also refer to at least 30,000 individual investors, down from an estimated 62,000 initially stated. A receiver appointed to recover the funds says that after analyzing EminiFX’s operations, there were at least 25,000 individual EminiFX investment club members, but some users of the website were not necessarily club members.
Court documents filed in the upcoming hearing reveal that Alexandre asked for a sentence prosecutors deemed “substantially below” the sentencing guidelines because of his ties to the community.
“But this cuts both ways,” prosecutors argue in their sentencing submission. “It was these very ties to his community that Alexandre exploited in perpetrating this egregious fraud scheme, and it was because of his deep ties to his community that he was able to lull his victims into giving him their life savings.”
The prosecutors added that given “the brazen nature of Alexandre’s conduct” and attempts to minimize the crime, he deserves 120 months’ imprisonment as a just punishment, to promote respect for the law and deter others from similar behavior. Had he gone to trial and been convicted, Alexandre would’ve faced more than 20 years in prison, according to the guidelines.
The available records did not specify what exactly Alexandre had requested, nor did his letter to Cronan. They do show several eleventh-hour arguments over evidence and testimonials to be presented, or not, at the hearing.
One man, two different portraits in letters to judge
Tuesday’s sentencing is a milestone that many community members, investors and attorneys have been looking forward to seeing in court for a variety of reasons. It comes amid much emotionally-charged statements from both the prosecution and defense teams about Alexandre and his impact on the Haitian community.
The government’s sentencing submission includes several letters as of July 16 from investors stating that Alexandre brought financial ruin to them and thousands of others in the Haitian community. The defense team’s submission, consisting of more than 100 letters, contains pleas for no prison time and leniency from relatives, congregants and EminiFX members attesting to Alexandre’s stature in the community. Among them are his wife, in-laws, and close associates – some of whom are listed as defendants in the suit against the churches.
Both sets of letters reviewed as of July 16 paint starkly different portraits of Alexandre. On one hand, Alexandre is portrayed as a criminal mastermind who used this faith, God and the church community to pilfer funds from unsuspecting congregants and community members to live the good life. On the other hand, Alexandre is painted as a helpful, faithful servant of God who erred in his zeal to help his community grow out of poverty and therefore merits mercy.
Advocates for a stringent prison sentence — to support the government’s case — had their names redacted to protect the privacy of victims, the prosecutors said. Here’s a sampling of what they wrote to the judge, lightly edited for clarity.
- “Your Honor, this man destroyed an entire community with his elaborate lies. He used the people’s weakness such as God and the Bible to lure them in and ultimately rob us of our hard earned money. My family lost over a half of a million dollars in this Ponzi Scheme. Mr. Alexandre destroyed family. Broke marriages. separated children with parents. He caused people to become homeless. We even heard people were trying to commit suicide due to this man elaborate lies.”
- “One 68-year-old woman invested her entire life savings and is now homeless. A 51-year-old single mother of two teenagers mortgaged her home to invest in EminiFX because her pastor told her it was a good idea, and her house is now being foreclosed on because she is unable to pay her mortgage. There are thousands of similarly situated people who have been hurt by Eddy Alexandre. The community considers Eddy Alexandre a sociopath, a financial terrorist who used the Church and the bible to terrorize them.”
- “Your Honor, I was completely blindsided by this man’s charisma and ruse when me, my family and friends threw our support behind him without knowing all the facts related to this case. Your Honor, I am now 100% convinced that everything Mr. Alexandre said to us were all lies and the business was a complete and fabricated scheme. … I am withdrawing my support to this man and asking the court to punish him to the fullest of the law for his crimes.”
Supporters of Alexandre, including himself, sent letters from across the U.S., Canada and even Ghana. One letter from Alexandre’s own household, written by his wife of 25 years, was at the top of the pile.
- “I cannot imagine Eddy not being present for future milestones, such as receiving my DNP or celebrating our first-born’s graduation with us next year,” Clarelle Alexandre wrote. “Eddy is a dedicated provider who works long hours to ensure that his family has everything they need… The thought of him being incarcerated and away from our family is unbearable. … We are asking for your mercy in allowing us to continue living in a stable, loving environment that Eddy has provided for us.”
- “…The Eddy I knew since Haiti is a people’s person,” wrote Joel N. Gustave, an Army veteran from the same town in Haiti as Alexandre. “He always wants to give advice, mostly financial advice … At Maranatha Church in Queens, New York, people usually surround Eddy and cling to his teaching on financial matters and advice. Usually, after talking to us, he always told us: ‘Now that you are so knowledgeable, go and make some money for yourself and your family.’”
- “Finally, Mr. Eddy Alexandre is the hope of our community in that regard,” wrote John E. Maisonneuve, a Pennsylvania-based Adventist pastor now named as a defendant in the Miami suit. “And investing with EminiFX was the best decision that I have ever made. I stopped worrying about paying my bills and saw a bright economic future for my children because he kept his promises.”
Some who wrote letters are expected to be at the sentencing hearing set for 2 p.m.